At NetSPI, we invest heavily in our processes and technology to continuously perform high-quality penetration testing services for our clients. But ask any of our clients and they’ll tell you that the greatest quality that sets NetSPI apart from other pentesting vendors is our people – arguably the greatest and most important investment we can make. 

It’s no secret that the cybersecurity and technology industry is experiencing 0% unemployment rates. And the competition is fierce for qualified talent that is not only technical but also understands the implications of cybersecurity. 

Case-in-point: NetSPI recently attended the Secure World Boston cybersecurity event. In one session, the presenter asked the room of more than 50 CISOs and other security leaders to raise their hand if they had open cybersecurity positions that they were struggling to fill. Nearly every single hand went up in the room. 

One way NetSPI is investing and bringing in new and qualified talent is the NetSPI University (NetSPI U) program. This penetration testing training program is specifically for entry-level talent looking to begin their career in cybersecurity.  

Since its inception in 2018, 83% of all NetSPI U “graduates” have continued their careers at NetSPI today – many of which are now in leadership positions. 

This competitive training program is available in Minneapolis, Portland (OR), Lehi, and Pune. You join as an Associate Security Consultant (or remote depending on the situation) and receive hands-on penetration testing training focused on NetSPI’s proven testing methodology. Not to mention the competitive benefits and opportunities to be mentored by some of the best talent in cybersecurity. [To view our open pentesting jobs, visit our careers page] 

To share a first-hand perspective on what it’s like to become a pentester, in this blog, we asked four NetSPI U alumni to share their experiences getting into and working in the pentesting industry.  

What did you wish you knew before you transitioned into cybersecurity? 

Karin Knapp, Security Consultant (NetSPI U Class of 2021): 

“I wish I had known more about a career in cybersecurity while in school. With limited experience in cybersecurity before I applied to NetSPI U, I wish I had taken more electives that would’ve been more applicable to my current role instead of what I thought I wanted to do before I graduated.”  

Matt Ostrom, Managing Consultant (NetSPI U Class of 2018): 

“Pentesting is a team job. There is no room, nor should there be room for ‘rockstars’.”  

Marissa Allen, Security Consultant II (NetSPI U Class of 2020): 

“I wish I had known more certainly what cybersecurity career path I wanted to take. Everything is interesting, and it can take a while to narrow down your interests in the field given there are so many paths you can take.”  

Sam Horvath, Technical Client Director (NetSPI U Class of 2018): 

“Ignorance is bliss – once you know how insecure most systems are, you’ll be perpetually ‘paranoid’ to some degree.”  

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone who wants to get started in pentesting? 


 “Take a look at websites designed to help you practice your pentesting skills like PortSwigger, HacktheBox, or TryHackMe. These are great ways to familiarize yourself with the basics of pentesting with hands-on, guided practice.”  


 “Start gathering knowledge however you can. Whether that be through reading books or blogs, setting up your home lab of virtual machines – in a cloud environment or something like VirtualBox – testing vulnerable web applications, etc. Every little bit helps.” 


 “I think the best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to ask questions. There is a ton of information out there, and it can be difficult to sort through. There are many great sites that you can learn new skills from and people that will be willing to guide you if you reach out.” 


 “Start meditating and/or doing intense cardio daily. Being able to put your brain in a calm space at the end of the day after exhausting your critical thinking/problem-solving centers is the key to rejuvenation and rest.” 

What characteristics make a great pentester? Why? 


 “Having a passion to always want to learn more about cybersecurity and pentesting is probably the best characteristic in my opinion. The ability to get creative and think outside of the box, and to not give up on difficult problems is also super valuable.” 


“First, someone who is determined to succeed. Sometimes, we’ll have to go through 99 different failures on exploiting a vulnerability before finding the one that works. Second, someone who loves learning. The cybersecurity industry is constantly changing and keeping pace with those changes is important. And lastly, someone who genuinely wants to make a difference. The work we do is incredibly important, and I feel like our work matters in keeping our clients safe.” 


“If you like research, puzzles, and problem solving, then you’ve got this. You’ll come across areas in your penetration tests where you will need to dig into a problem. If you have an investigative personality, then you have the tenacity to go down the rabbit hole and find out if there is a vulnerability or not.” 


“Perseverance. Cracking the hardest problems and puzzles means you can’t get discouraged easily. 99% of people won’t get it on the first try, and that’s okay.” 

What was the most rewarding/beneficial part of your NetSPI U experience? 

Interested in a pentesting job? Curious about a career at NetSPI? Visit or email to learn more.

“I realized shortly before NetSPI U that I wanted a career in cybersecurity, but I thought I would have to go back to school to be able to get a job in the field. NetSPI U taught me everything that I needed to know and helped me build a solid foundation to be a successful pentester. In addition, I got to meet some awesome people such as those from my NetSPI U class and people who were my mentors in the program. They are the reason I look forward to coming into the office even a year after I ’graduated’.” 


“NetSPI U gives people the opportunity to break into the cybersecurity industry. The idea/concept of the NetSPI U program is a rarity. Being able to go from having a little bit of cybersecurity experience to feeling like I’m confident and ready to start executing on client projects after the program was, and continues to be, invaluable. Additionally, learning from people who have spent years in the industry was crucial. The depth of knowledge they were able to share during the program is the reason why it keeps succeeding and producing stellar pentesters.”  


“NetSPI U gave me the knowledge and tools to succeed in my career. The program helps future pentesters succeed in that aspect by pairing them with a seasoned pentester as their mentor to provide guidance and answer any questions. It helped me better understand the breadth of work being performed. The program ultimately enabled me to figure out which direction I wanted to grow in my career.” 


“Learning that I had the ability and the drive to develop and succeed in the information security space was a validation of years of work in learning the basics of computer science. Finding a fantastic set of colleagues to learn, grow, and develop friendships within that process was just a bonus.” 

The Future of Penetration Testing 

A career in cybersecurity is a lucrative and rewarding one to get into in the foreseeable future. As cybercrime continues to be on the rise, companies will only continue to invest in services such as penetration testing. Becoming a pentester is not for the faint of heart, but if you have the perseverance to see a project to the end like how Karin, Matt, Marissa, and Sam described, penetration testing could be for you.

Want more information about NetSPI U? Click here!